Can Leftover Rice Cause Food Poisoning? Expert Weighs In

Would you eat leftover rice if you found out that it can cause food poisoning? Well, find out what an expert has to say.

Tenzin Chodon
Written by: Tenzin ChodonUpdated at: Apr 27, 2023 16:52 IST
Can Leftover Rice Cause Food Poisoning? Expert Weighs In

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We’ve all been told to avoid consuming leftovers, unrefrigerated or refrigerated foods, and reheated items. But should you or should you not have leftover rice has remained a point of constant debate. While for many working professionals, it all comes down to saving time, for some, it is all about the taste and texture. However, recent videos on TikTok have got us all alarmed, compelling us to rethink our choices. Many people are sharing their stories of how they got ill after eating leftover rice. This has got us wondering whether leftover rice really leads to food poisoning or not? We spoke to Prachi Jain, Chief Clinical Nutritionist & HOD - Nutrition & Dietetics, CK Birla Hospital, Gurugram, to get some answers. 

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What Is Food Poisoning?

Food poisoning occurs when a person eats contaminated foods. According to Britain's National Health Services (NHS), most cases of food poisoning are a result of food that is contaminated by bacteria, such as salmonella or Escherichia coli (E. coli), or a virus, such as the norovirus. 

Clinical nutritionist Prachi Jain says, “Food poisoning can be experienced after eating food which is not handled, cooked, stored or reheated appropriately.” By “handled”, she meant undercooked food, not refrigerating cooked food and leaving it outside for more than 2 hours at room temperature during summers, not reheating the leftovers properly, etc.

A person suffering from food poisoning can show symptoms, such as:

  • Abdominal pain, cramps or bloating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Feeling sick, reflux

Having said that, experts recommend fresh home-cooked food. 

Is It Possible To Get Food Poisoning From Leftover Rice?

According to Prachi Jain, you can get food poisoning from eating reheated rice. 

She says, “The reheating isn’t what causes the problem, rather the way the rice has been stored and reheated is what leads to food poisoning. Reheating is always questionable but the primary concern should be how you store your food, the reheating temperature and the process,” she says. 

Uncooked rice has “bacillus cereus”, a type of bacteria that can produce toxins in favourable conditions. As per the NHS, when the cooked rice is kept at room temperature for too long (more than 2 hrs), it can multiply and cause food poisoning. 

“The longer cooked rice is left at room temperature, the more likely it is that the bacteria or toxins could make the rice unsafe to eat,” says the UK Health Body. 

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Tips To Serve Rice Safely

To avoid increasing the risk of contamination and associated illnesses, here are some ways to safely serve rice:

  • Cook the rice properly and serve it fresh, but in case you are not able to consume it completely, avoid leaving the leftover rice at room temperature for more than 2 hrs
  • Store the leftover rice in a covered utensil at refrigeration temp (4 degree C), for not more than 1 day
  • Reheat the leftover rice only once
  • Reheat the rice until it reaches the steaming temperature
  • Maintain sanitation & hygiene while handling the food


Ideally, everyone should eat fresh and appropriately cooked foods, irrespective of whether they’re rice, vegetables or meat. As long as one follows all the sanitary and hygienic measures, and avoids unnecessary mistakes that expose foods to contamination, leftover foods may not pose any problem. However, it is advisable to consult a healthcare provider in case you experience any pain or discomfort or any other symptoms of food poisoning.